Thursday, August 1, 2013
a place to lie and a little food
Long after Molloy's cows, later, in the Moran section of Molloy, the sheep are also pastoral, not only located in pasturage but so promising in their tantalising quiet and poetical-pastoral atmosphere that Moran is stricken or awed. "I looked around me again incapable of speech." He wants to say that he is willing to remain by the shepherd. "I longed to say, Take me with you I will serve you faithfully, just for a place to lie and a little food." He senses a paradise, then he is expelled. He leaves and goes on, perhaps into hell. The bees, when he reaches his home, are dead.
But then he is not in hell. First there is winter, then summer. Either real or imagined. He is more like Persephone. "They were the longest, loveliest days of all the year. I lived in the garden." He has been released or freed or permitted into some state or another. I think it is unusual in this book to have two long-sounding relaxed words like that next to one another, "longest, loveliest." I have not double-checked but I believe is not a normal Beckett habit, that relaxed extension of sound. Moran has mentioned "living in the garden" several times now in different tenses. Who knows where he is? Now he is paying more attention to "a voice" that tells him to act, and as he is trying "to understand what it wanted" he refers to himself in the third person: "It did not use the words that Moran had been taught when he was little." Then the I is restored. "I understood it, all wrong perhaps. That is not what matters. It told me to write." But when he goes inside, the act of writing detaches him from himself again. "Then I went back into the house and wrote, It is midnight. The rain is beating on the windows. It was not midnight. It was not raining." Which I read like this: It was not midnight at the time that I was writing, "It is midnight."
I read it as though his ability to unselfconsciously have a memory is being loosened from him perhaps, as he writes now, reflecting on the start of his body of work here, which the reader has just spent however-long addressing with their minds and eyes. I was in a different state as I was writing, he says. I was not myself. I was torn away from myself. The voice that urges me to write is the voice that forces me into the third person. Though he is still writing as he says it. If he is speaking then he is also writing.
This is not like those books that wind around in a circle comfortably and unite with themselves when they tell you in the final paragraph, and then I began to write this story, the same story you've been reading ... The start of Moran has been disturbed, not reinforced. Molloy is not similar to The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, which also ends with the narrator writing the first line: "When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house --" or even like In Search of Things Past, whose narrator has discovered the nature of the book he was meant to write. Moran has discovered the book he was meant to write but it is not a relief.
The act of writing has taken him away from the long lovely summer days to midnight and rain: it is a dark act, it has interrupted the image of the summer garden and the crucial songs of the birds whose voices are inexplicable. In 1930 Beckett wrote a monograph on Proust. "Habit is the ballast that chains the dog to his vomit," he wrote, and "The creation of the world did not take place once and for all time, but takes place every day." (Every moment is the moment to escape from sin, says Kierkegard in Sickness Unto Death, tranalated by Alastair Hannay: it is sin to remain in despair, for despair is sin.)